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Erie Hall forums open discussion into projects 

9-24-2019

Cassandra Wuerstle & Jeremiah Hassel, Editor-inChief & News Editor 

With the acceleration of the Erie Hall Project at Penn State Behrend, new developments have brought about the return of the architectural corporations Sasaki and Weber Murphy Fox to show students their plans and get feedback about the models and projects for the new Erie Hall. 

During their visit, the architects met with two student-based groups to hear feedback. The sessions were held in the Dobbins catering room at noon and 5 pm. These times were carefully selected to bring in more students who might seize the opportunity to enjoy a free meal while providing feedback about plans for Erie Hall. 

While the turnout for the lunch session was lackluster, the feedback provided was not. There were about 10 students who showed up for the lunch session who represented a variety of backgrounds found at Behrend. The group consisted of an array of student-athletes, along with commuter students, resident students, and concerned faculty.

The presentation started out with the architects discussing the research they had performed before creating their mock-ups of the new building. They evaluated several factors such as pedestrian traffic, future expansion plans, the campus set up, sectioning, and landscape, along with the utilized spaces in Junker. After presenting their research and findings they then showed students mock-ups of what the exterior and interior spaces might look like. 

Students in the first session expressed several productive concerns, which included issues with the weight room. The current allocation for the weight room in Erie Hall's new plans seemed small for many of the athletes and commuter students who lifted. Even though the architects tried to ease students' concerns about the weight rooms size, students persisted pointing out more and more reasons why it should be larger.

After several valid points were made the architects promised to revisit the problem and take the room back to the drawing board. Female students in the meeting also asked if there was a way to design the weight room which made it more amateur-friendly.

The second student session resumed discussions of the first, continuing the debate regarding the locker rooms, but focusing more on the different preferences of resident and commuter students.

Architects presented several layout designs and asked students their thoughts on things discussed in the first session, continuing discussion and ensuring a wide array of student voices were heard.

Locker rooms were once again an important topic of discussion, with specific regard to the design of the showers. Concerns were raised about hygiene and the campus’s previous installment of shower curtains, which were viewed as unwanted and unpreferred.

Workout equipment and the type of activities displayed in the building were also suggested, with boxing garnering a large amount of participant support, along with mirrors in the fitness centers and weight room and charging areas and desks for students to charge their devices or complete homework while they watch sporting events in the space.

Each student input was carefully noted by the architects, and discussion ensued as the architects countered with extra ideas or other thoughts, which students were then able to express their opinions about.

Dr. Ken Miller, the Senior Director of Administration and Student Affairs, attended each of the five sessions, receiving feedback from faculty, staff, coaches, and students from every aspect of campus life.

“It’s pretty standard when you build a building that you want to get input from the people who are going to use it,” said Miller. “We wanted to try to get good input from students and different populations of students.”

For students in attendance, the event seemed to be a great way to express their thoughts and be involved in the process.

Freshman Kelsey Otoole said, “I definitely feel like it’s a good idea for students. I do see minor flaws in the design, but we definitely talked about all of those today, and I think it’s a good idea overall.”

Several members of the Lion Ambassadors were also in attendance to gather information on the project they might be able to share on their tours with prospective students on campus.

“I think it is great that Behrend is including students into the design process because we want to create the best possible user experience for everyone. This new facility will definitely be eye catching, and a place that students will want to spend a lot of time at,” said senior Ashley Jankowski, the president of the Lion Ambassadors.

Overall, while the project may not be complete until 2022, students and administrators alike are thrilled to be a part of a project designed to make Behrend a better place.